For the majority of teenager learning to drive and getting their license is a rite of passage. They look forward to this day for years with great excitement and joy, but the harsh reality is teens and driving is, more often than not, a dangerous pairing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. In 2008, an average of nine teens died every day from motor vehicle crashes and more than 350,000 were treated at emergency departments for injuries. In addition, per mile drive, teens from the ages of 16-19 were four times more likely to crash than older drivers.
Despite the troubling statistics, there is hope for preventing teen crashes. Research shows that states with the strictest and most comprehensive Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) systems have reduced teen fatal crashed by 38 percent, and injury crashes by 40 percent. GDL laws delay full licensure and utilize restrictions (such as limits on nighttime driving or the number of passengers allowed) to enable teens to get their initial driving experience under low-risk conditions.
West Virginia’s GDL law establishes a three stage licensing process: learner, intermediate and full privilege. During the learner stage, which must last at least 6 months, a driver must be accompanied by a fully privileged driver and may carry no other passengers. During the intermediate phase, a driver must be at least 16, cannot drive between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. and can carry no non-family passengers for the first six months. To receive full driving privileges, one must be at least 17 years old and have completed 50 hours of supervised driving or a driver education course.
Our firm strongly encourages parents to know, understand, and enforce our state’s GDL laws to help keep our teen drivers safe.